Lots of people ask me this question. On the surface, a JR Pass, or Japan Rail Pass can seem expensive. At this time a 7 day pass is $345, a 14 day is $550 and a 21 day $703AUD. If you are intending to explore Japan beyond Tokyo, the pass is exceptional value for money.
A one week pass will cost you the equivalent of a return shinkansen trip from Tokyo to Kyoto.
The JR Pass allows you unlimited travel on Japan Railways (JR) transportation, including all JR trains, Shinkansen bullet trains (except Nozomi and Mizuho service), limited express trains, express trains and rapid or local trains, JR bus company local lines (JR Hokkaido Bus, JR Bus Tohoku, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokai Bus, West Japan JR Bus, Chugoku JR Bus, JR Kyushu Bus), JR Miyajima ferry and Tokyo Monorail.
This means many local trains and buses, as well as shinkansen are at your disposal. Tokyo subway and private line trains are excluded. I use an ICOCA card or Suica card for these. My ICOCA has Astro Boy on it ☺️
JR Pass must be purchased before you leave Australia. You can order and pay online and a voucher will be sent to your address. If you are in a hurry, you can pick them up from some outlets. I always buy my JR Pass through JTB Travel. They are reputable and have offices all over the world.
The voucher is valid for 3 months from date of purchase. You take the voucher to any JR Office, at all airports and larger stations in Japan, and exchange it for your pass. All the staff speak English and are really knowledgable about the trains. They are also incredibly tolerant if you are learning Japanese and want to test how fluent you are…
I usually try to work my itinerary around when I will be validating my pass. If I am in Japan for 18 days, I get a 14 day pass and use my Pasmo for the time I am in Tokyo. Then my 14 day JR can be used to get me from Hiroshima to Kyoto to Nagasaki to Takayama… or anywhere else I want like to go.
Another thing I like about the Pass is taking it into a JR office (I go late at night to avoid crowds) and pre-booking seats for the trips we are going to be taking. It guarantees I am sitting with my family or friends.
Public transport, like everything else in Japan is super efficient and user friendly.
You can read more here about Japanese Trains and the Tokyo train system.